Disclaimer: Legal stuff, don't own characters, haven't made any money, this is for entertainment purposes, no profit earned, lawyers go away. –kisses-
Spoiler Alert: There are tidbits from past episodes and Spanderverse: stories.
Notes: Fifth story in the Spanderverse-universe, following “Spanderverse: Burial”.
Everything from the television series through the defeat of Adam also occurred as depicted, in the Spanderverse. Following Burial and before this story BTVS: Real Me occurred. This is the Spanderverse: version of BTVS: The Replacement.
Note in the Spanderverse, Anya was employed at the Magic Shop by Mr. Bogerty until ‘Real Me’, as mentioned in Spanderverse: Dracula.
People’s thoughts are depicted in italics. You’ll find emphasis depicted with an underline.
Spanderverse: Confusion of Three
Commando-Xander was heading at a rapid jog toward the Magic Box, club in hand. The sun was beginning to dip and twilight was rapidly approaching. Above his head, clouds began to rumble in from the west. Apparently they were going to get another bout of fall rain, he grimaced.
A few blocks from Giles' store, he heard a familiar voice shout out to him. Stopping and turning, he waved over to Buffy and Riley.
"Nice branch there," Riley said as he came strolling up.
"Not just any branch, it's that Toth guy's magic beam spitter."
"You sure, Xan?" Buffy asked, her nose scrunching up, "It looks like a plain old branch to me."
"Looks are deceiving, Buff. I took it off of him myself, not twenty minutes ago."
"Wow, really?" Buffy said, impressed.
"He attacked me, but I was able to chase him off somehow. But that's not the half of it. Guys, Toth has somehow made himself look just like me! I'm talking the ultimate evil twin, here. And he must have been following me all day, because he attacked me at the apartment I was looking at."
"Apartment," Riley asked.
"Yeah, I've decided that Anya is worth more than keeping the run-down house. I'm going to fix it up a bit and put it on the market. Anyway, I've signed the papers on a new place; Anya is going to go ape. Oh, god, that reminds me; Toth was mentioning Anya, Buffy. I'm afraid he's going to target her for something by pretending to be me."
"That's not going to happen on my watch," Buffy said. "Don't worry about that. Were you taking the staff-thingy to Giles'?"
"Exactly. I was going to run out and arrange this whole romantic picnic thing for Anya, and then surprise her tonight, too. Guess that'll have to wait awhile."
"Oh, no it won't," Buffy said, sounding indignant. "You and Anya deserve a little celebration that is fight-free. Go. Give me that staff, I'll take it to the store. You go arrange your special evening."
"Are you sure Buffy? It seems wrong to flake out on a showdown when you might need me."
"I'm very sure. Riley and I can handle Toth. And, I'll know where you are if I need you."
"Plus," Riley added, "It'll keep us from getting confused in the melee and hitting the wrong one of you."
Xander handed over the staff to Buffy, who weighed it in her hands. She frowned at the offending stick, "It still looks like a plain old branch, though."
"Just don't go pointing it around," Xander said. "And thanks. I really appreciate you taking care of this so Anya and I can have our night. She has no clue what's coming, though. So, mum's the word. I'll pick her up at the 'Box' at around , if you can keep her there for me."
"No sweat," Buffy nodded, "I'm so happy that you guys have worked things out."
Zeppo-Xander was running blindly down the streets of Sunnydale, berating himself. It had been stupid trying to take on that demon by himself and he knew it. At least, he used to know better. Before Dracula had come and completely changed his life. He hadn’t been able to save his own father, he’d be dead now or worse if it wasn’t for Spike, and now he was about to lose Anya and all of his friends to ‘Mr. Smooth-talker’. Xander stopped, wiping tears of frustration and fear from his eyes.
Looking around he noticed that he’d somehow managed to run into Riley’s neighborhood. He took a quick glance behind him, tripping over the uneven pavement as he did so. Falling to the sidewalk, he banged his funny bone hard on the cement and screamed before falling into a litany of cuss words. Fortunately there was no one on the street to be offended.
God, I’m so frickin’ clumsy today. Toth must have stolen my coordination or something when I got hit yesterday.
He climbed back to his feet, massaging his arm in an attempt to get the pins and needles to stop. His elbow bone continued screeching to him for its abuse.
Has it only been a day? Actually, its a few hours less than a day, at that, and Toth has still made me feel like a complete Zeppo. What am I gonna do?
He was about to give up and go to find Buffy when an image appeared in his mind. Anya, looking at him in disappointment, the embarrassment in her eyes that she’d ever gotten involved with him. And then there was Buffy with that ‘Xander needs saving again’ look.
No! Goddammit, Toth is not going to screw up my life this way. Riley! I’m near Riley’s… he may be out patrolling, but I can easily check. Then I’ll go to Willow; she won’t look at me like I’m useless the way Buffy will if I run to her with my tail between my legs.
Xander wandered the block until he came to a non-descript apartment block of gray cinder. Following the cracked tarmac, he went around the side of the building and into the back where a small parking lot sat. A few cars were in the lot, two of which looked so rusted-out, they might not even start anymore. He grimaced at the depressing scene that met his eyes, Wow, it didn’t look this sad when we were here in the daytime.
From Riley’s ‘housewarming’ lunch and beers, Xander knew that his apartment was around the back. He approached the back door of the place and gave it a tug, but as expected it was locked. The outer doors required a key or someone to buzz you in.
Continuing past the back door, he arrived a few windows down on the back of the building. If he counted right, he should be standing at the bedroom window of Riley’s. Since there were blinds drawn, he couldn’t be absolutely positive, but since he was desperate anyway, he began to pound on the window. At first he tapped the window softly, afraid of drawing attention from the other residents, but then harder as his frustration mounted.
When there remained no response, Xander removed his shirt; looking around warily the entire time. Darkness was coming fast now and he didn’t want to be picked up as a breaker-and-enterer nor did he want to become a snack for a vampire. He had tried that, thank you, didn’t like it; wasn’t interested in giving it another try.
Wrapping his shirt as many times as he could around his right elbow, he smashed the appendage against the bedroom window. After a few false starts in which the window slowly cracked, it finally broke completely, sending shards of glass into the room beyond. Xander felt upward for the window’s latch and was relieved when it turned easily enough for him to unlock the window. As he crawled inside and quickly re-shut the window, fighting to get the blinds back in place, he called out quietly for Riley.
He stood stock still, trying to see anything familiar in the room. He was scared now that he’d broken into the wrong apartment and was about to be greeted with a shotgun wielding sumo-wrestler. But, no, the apartment remained quiet.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted a picture of Riley, Buffy and Giles. They were all grinning stupidly from within the frame. He remembered the day he took that so Riley would have a picture of himself and Buffy for his bedside stand. He didn’t remember how Giles had ended up in the picture. It was oddly comforting that the frame sat on Riley’s dresser, however, rather than near the bed. That would’ve just been creepy.
After Xander had left a note on Riley’s bed explaining the broken window pane, he searched the bedroom. Riley was an ex-military man and it stood to reason that he’d have a gun stashed somewhere in the apartment. Smart money would put it within easy reach for any uninvited nighttime visitors. As he pulled open the nightstand, he saw a glint of metal and smiled. A handgun, looking polished enough to see a reflection in sat in the bottom of the drawer surrounded by various detritus. As he pulled the gun from the drawer, getting used to its weight, he tried to ignore the condom packages and insisted his brain not think about Buffy and Riley at that moment.
Slamming the drawer shut, he left the way he’d come. Another indignity was suffered as he fell out of the window aggravating the injury to his elbow.
Swearing again, this time under his breath, he took off toward the U.C. Sunnydale campus. He hoped to find a pay phone on the way so he wouldn’t have to walk the whole distance.
Spike paced furiously in the sewer below
His mind was busy repeating the scene earlier in the day over and over. He was deeply worried about Xander.
He was also angry. This second emotion was directed firmly at Harmony and her whining when he’d made it clear that he was going out without her to meet with the Scoobies. She’d complained that he was setting her up for Buffy; then it was that he cared more about Xander than he did her (which was true, and he told her so); and finally it was a tirade about how he treated her wrong- blah, blah, blah. It had been a mercy to get away from her clinging nattering.
As Spike’s senses were telling him that the sun had finally sunk below the horizon where it was no longer dangerous, water suddenly rushed into the sewer in which he was standing. Above his head he heard the familiar voice of Buffy yelling out a complaint at the sudden deluge of rain. As Spike reached up to the street grate to begin the climb out of the sewer, water ran over his head, soaking his favorite and ubiquitous leather jacket.
“Oh, that’s nice,” he said, complainingly.
Thirty minutes before sundown, Commando-Xander called the Magic Box and asked for Anya. Giles had been briefed on Xander’s big plans by Buffy when she’d dropped off Toth’s staff (which he thought looked different before, but couldn’t be sure). Although Giles had wanted her and Riley to research, she’d insisted on going back out to patrol for the demon. Lowering his voice, he’d asked Xander if he was ready and when Xander confirmed, Giles gave him a whispered ‘good luck’.
After he’d gotten Anya on the line, Xan had apologized for not picking her up and doing this right. He explained that he’d gotten tied up, but that they had a appointment to look at an apartment that he thought she was going to love.
He had expected Anya to be mad that he was making her walk to the new apartment, but she had been so excited, she had nearly slammed the phone on his ear so she could rush out. Now twenty minutes later, Anya, breathless but grinning met him in the hallway.
“Oh, I’m so excited! Where’s the manager? We need the key!”
“Whoa, whoa, honey. Calm down. I have the key right here,” Xander said pulling the gold colored piece of metal from his pant’s pocket. “First I need you to close your eyes for a minute.”
“My eyes? What for?”
“Tradition.” Xander answered, a warm smile on his handsome features, “It’s kinda a thing where when you have a surprise for someone, they have to close their eyes first.”
“I have a surprise? Inside the apartment?” Anya said, her eyes dancing merrily with bewilderment but also joy.
“Yep. I really hope you like it. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I think I did good. Now, eyes closed. And no peeking until I say so.”
The sun was down and Zeppo-Xander had been caught in a sudden downpour just as it turned dark. His eyes were wary, scanning the darkness around him for any signs of hostiles. He was again berating himself, this time for not grabbing a stake or at least a crucifix before running out after dark.
He was out of breath by the time he reached
“Hey, Will. Listen, I need to say something and its going to sound completely nuts, but I swear it’s the truth.” Xander was looking slightly panicked, deepening
“Okay, before I get into it, I gotta prove to you that this is me. I’m the real Xander… um… oh god, what’s something that only we know…?”
“Xander, I think you need a breath… or maybe a whole lot of them. You’re starting to sound like me when I turn into babble-girl.”
“Oh!” Xander snapped his fingers, apparently not hearing her, “When I was, uh, seven I wanted that fire truck. And I didn’t get it and I was really disappointed, but then there was a real fire next door and the fire trucks came and I thought you had started the fire for me so that I’d get my fire truck.”
He took a deep breath, while
“And I promise, if you became a little arsonist, I’d still think it was the coolest thing ever! Oh! And there’s the Charlie Brown special every year!” Xander snapped his fingers, “You know, the Snoopy dance!”
Xander began his impersonation of the Peanut’s character’s dance to
“Xan, please stop, before I bust my gut. You’re you, okay? I know you’re you. Now what’s going on?”
Xander deflated in relief at
“Wait. If we didn’t walk you home, then who did we? I mean, he had your keys and the cell phone and everything!”
Xander shook his head, commiserating with her confusion, “It’s Toth. It’s gotta be. Some how he’s managed to make himself look like me and he pick pocketed me too. I can probably kiss that thirty bucks in my wallet good-bye.”
“Oh, my gods! Xander, I’m sorry. We should have noticed something was wrong, but except maybe being more confident, he’s got you down pretty damned well.”
“Don’t I know it, Will. I followed him to the site and my boss gave him my promotion without batting an eye!”
“You got a promotion?” Willow gave him a huge grin, “Congratulations! That’s so exciting. And you have so earned it.”
“Focus, Wills. Toth got the promotion; we have to stop him. Oh, and he’s using this shiny, hypnosis thing he keeps in his pocket. Oh, and you know what else, the bastard is seducing Anya, too. He is like this super-smooth criminal, except he looks like me instead of Michael Jackson in gangster wear.”
“It’s okay, Xan. Now that we know, Tara and I can do a ‘seeing past the illusion’ type spell. Anya will see that it’s Toth and not you.”
“Oh, god! Anya could be with him right now! He was looking at apartments earlier. I think he’s going to try to be me permanently and have slimy babies with her!”
“Calm down, Xan. We’re going to stop him. Just let me run over to the library and grab
“No, I can’t wait. I’ve gotta find Anya,” Xander yelled as he sprinted for the door, “You guys get with Buffy and fill her in.”
As Xander took off down the hallway, before
She was just about to concede that it was possible that Marie was, in fact, not innocent in the persecution of the poor in
“Sorry about this, Stacy,”
“Oh! In the excitement, I completely forgot we have cell phones now!”
“It’s okay, I have mine. What’s going on?”
“Long story, but it boils down to Toth looks like Xander and we’ve all been played for dupes. Can you give Buffy’s cell a call and tell her we’re on our way?”
As the downpour stopped as quickly as it had started, Buffy and Riley was noticing that the Magic Box was darkened, the door locked. As her cell began vibrating in her pocket, she noticed Spike crawling up from the sewer. Hitting the ‘answer’ button, she said aloud, “What the hell do you want and why are you down there!?”
“Uh, Buffy? Sorry, am I, um, b-bothering you in the middle of, uh, s-something?”
“We need to have an emergency Scooby meeting about Toth. Xander just talked to Will…”
“…And Toth is impersonating Xander,” Buffy finished. “I know, I saw him. Riley and I are at the ‘Magic Box’ now, but Giles has it closed already. We’re going to have to meet at his place. We’re on our way now. And
Buffy hung up the phone and turned to Spike, “Okay, back to my question.”
“Not much to tell. Seems you’re already up on what’s happening. Although, at least now I can stop worrying that Xander’s possessed or crazy.”
“You saw Xander today?”
“And he was acting really odd. Even for him.”
“Wow, he’s been busy today. Okay, we’re going to Giles’ to find out if he has anything on where Toth may be now or how to use that staff that Xander got away from him.”
Spike looked astonished, “Xander got that demon’s glow rod thing? I’m impressed with the runt.”
“Well, this chat has been oh-so-pleasant, but I’m sure you have a butcher to visit or broken furniture to shop for…,” Buffy said as she led Riley away.
Spike wasn’t one to be put off by her bitchery, however. “Sorry, luv. You don’t get rid of me that easily. If Xander’s in danger, I’m gonna be there to help.”
Scant seconds later, Spike felt the need to add, “I mean help him out of the danger, not into it. You got that right?”
Buffy didn’t bother to respond. And all he received from Riley was a glare.
As the sudden downpour stopped, a male figure hunched over in the woods. In his hands were the limp remains of a wild rabbit, its neck cleanly broken.
Hyena-Xander tore into the rabbit with gusto, enjoying its still warm blood bathing his hands. The raw meat tantalized his senses and as his teeth tore its skin open, his stomach growled in anticipation.
Eating rapidly, lest other more powerful predators arrive to take his prize, he threw the torn bits of fur, the feet, the ears and the tail away from him in distaste. Xander walked over to a tree on the edge of the wood and licked water from the leaves, enjoying its fresh, clean taste.
He was idly considering finding Spike to talk again about his earlier offer when a familiar scent caught his attention. It was faint and drifting on the breeze that made the trees sing above his head, but it was there. He closed his eyes to take a deep, even breath through his nostrils. Teasing the scent he wanted from those of the rabbit’s remains and other spoor on the wind, his eyes shot open suddenly and he growled out into the night.
He began to stalk away from the woods. He knew this scent. It was the same as in the dump when he’d woken up disoriented after the scuffle with Toth. He couldn’t believe he’d forgotten. There had been a duplicate of himself, lying in the trash heap and now he could remember the crippling hunger that had driven thought from his mind. He’d completely forgotten about the odd occurrence until now, until the same-but-different scent called out to him. Xander began the hunt for its source.
End Ch 12